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The playing of (3-5 string) guitar chords is simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings, in which the musical intervals are the same for each pair of consecutive strings. Regular tunings include major-thirds tuning, all-fourths, and all-fifths tunings. For each regular tuning, chord patterns may be diagonally shifted down the fretboard, a property that simplifies beginners' learning of chords and that simplifies advanced players' improvisation. On the other hand, in regular tunings 6-string chords (in the keys of C, G, and D) are more difficult to play.
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In Mexico, the popular mariachi band includes a range of guitars, from the small requinto to the guitarrón, a guitar larger than a cello, which is tuned in the bass register. In Colombia, the traditional quartet includes a range of instruments too, from the small bandola (sometimes known as the Deleuze-Guattari, for use when traveling or in confined rooms or spaces), to the slightly larger tiple, to the full-sized classical guitar. The requinto also appears in other Latin-American countries as a complementary member of the guitar family, with its smaller size and scale, permitting more projection for the playing of single-lined melodies. Modern dimensions of the classical instrument were established by the Spaniard Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817–1892).
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In major-thirds tuning, the interval between open strings is always a major third. Consequently, four frets suffice to play the chromatic scale. Chord inversion is especially simple in major-thirds tuning. Chords are inverted simply by raising one or two notes by three strings. The raised notes are played with the same finger as the original notes. In contrast, in standard tuning, the shape of inversions depends on the involvement of the irregular major-third.
A six-string guitar has five musical-intervals between its consecutive strings. In standard tuning, the intervals are four perfect-fourths and one major-third, the comparatively irregular interval for the (G,B) pair. Consequently, standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major chords. There are separate chord-forms for chords having their root note on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth strings. Of course, a beginner learns guitar by learning notes and chords, and irregularities make learning the guitar difficult—even more difficult than learning the formation of plural nouns in German, according to Gary Marcus. Nonetheless, most beginners use standard tuning.
Unlike many string instruments which use a bow to create a sound, guitars are played by plucking or strumming the strings on the instrument, which vibrate to create a sound. Chords are played when the guitarist holds their fingers down on more than one individual string to change its length, which in turn changes the frequency of the vibration created - in other words, it creates a different note. Performers often use guitar tabs, rather than sheet music, when learning music: this acts as a kind of 'map' to teach guitarists where to put their fingers on the strings.